(74) Moving On
The Misha Campaign (093-1122 to 098-1122)
It's after the hot tub party in the guest quarters
at Cormor Home. They've negotiated and agreed to a contract with
the Arden Society,
the leaders of the Federation of Arden.
There's a brief discussion as to whether they could be considered to be
working for Arden, but as Helia Sarina points out it's more like a
mutual non-aggression pact.
The burning question now is what to do next.
Mich Saginaw had talked about going back to where they got Nightshade,
and had also suggested going to Mora to talk to Marquis Marcus
Crestworthy. Those idle suggestions were as much as they
considered the matter then.
Kalida Siena, Marchioness of Nakege, says they can't
really pull Marquis Marc into this without telling him ahead of time,
and they can't really tell him ahead of time.
Misha Ravanos says they've figured out at least one
of the groups out to get them, but there has to be at least one other
group out there. It's possible that when the Imperial Navy -- or
at least one element of it -- attacked them, it was just because they'd
been to Zett.
Of course they were also fired on at Wonstar
and Mora, but a generous interpretation would say that was
because of what they were doing at the time, not who they are.
Misha then talks with Robert about the
database. He reviews what they'd
learnt from it -- about INISO and where they'd found the original
caches and left their own.
Meanwhile, Kalida asks if they want to take Anastasia
back. Mich replies that there's nothing special for them there
aside from sentimental value. Kalida suggests they put it at
Marquis Marc's disposal, but of course the ship is too notorious to be
useful around here.
Misha seeks out Eric and asks him to come talk to
them. The Arden Society Member is there very quickly. Misha
starts out saying, "We are aware
that the Imperium, or parts of the Imperium, are searching for black
technology. I assume you are aware of this. This
organization has found caches of black
technology in various places around Foreven and the Spinward
Marches. Does the Arden Society keep caches of black
"No, the caches aren't for us. They're for...
well... us if the need should arise, but they're really for anyone who
ends up in a fighting retreat back through here, or who needs to make a
stand here, or fight against anything the enemy left here. This
was the first place we caught up with them, and actually fought with
them here. That could have been coincidence, or it might have
been that they had something here. So we set up here, in
case. We are limited in how much we are permitted to use."
"Right. Do you have a problem with the
Imperium -- or anyone else for that matter -- finding these caches?"
"Yes. They shouldn't be finding them, but they
have been there for a long time. It's bad that they are looking
"But if they're for anybody, would that mean
somebody knows where they are?"
"Not necessarily. The ones who went on know
how to find them, what to look for."
"So it's not that they're for anybody, but it's for
them if they should return?"
"Yes. We're just here to keep an eye on it."
"Was the Arden Society responsible for the
destruction of Karma,
in the Brod system?"
"Yes. We were systematically eliminating those
who knew anything. We assassinated Fostriades as well."
"You assassinated Fostriades?"
"Really?" Misha laughs. "You did try it
with us, but it didn't work."
"Catching up with you was difficult. We tried
a number of things at various times."
"What did Fostriades know?"
"He worked on the antimatter generators on Anastasia,
and those were incorporating aspects of a path that would lead to our
"So you hit Karma -- you must have known
something was going on before you talked to us."
"Yes. We had an eye on what was going on
there. For a long time they were working on dead ends, and we
obviously didn't worry about that at all."
"How did you know it was a dead end?"
"Because we know what works and what doesn't.
For example, if they were trying to research electric motors, you would
the research paths were. We did mislead him
too -- after he built Anastasia we sent his research off in
a different direction. We weren't always sure what he was doing
-- he tended to keep himself to himself -- but anything that was
important he built into prototypes. And we didn't
have coverage there all the time."
Misha changes the subject and asks if there are any
other color schemes for the black ships.
Eric replies that no, there are just the two -- one
with the insignia, and the completely black low signature one.
Helia asks about the possibility of disguising Anastasia
as some other ship, so they could use it openly in the Imperium.
Mich points out that Anastasia, or Kinunir
as she was originally known, is notoriously well known, particularly in
the Spinward Marches.
Misha says they only way they're going to get
another ship for that is either to sell Anastasia and buy
another one, or steal a ship.
Helia asks what would be more dangerous, taking Anastasia
into the interior of the Imperium or taking Nightshade.
She adds, "Of course the advantage of this one is we can get away a lot
Mich believes that the Emperor knew about Anastasia.
A personal friend of the Emperor
knew what Anastasia was, and
since it vanished that probably went up the chain of command too,
especially as Archduke
Norris was the guy who arranged for it to be taken
when it blew up. So by being more infamous, Anastasia
is the more dangerous.
Misha asks how much it would cost to disguise Anastasia
as something else.
Mich says that couldn't really be done. The
Kinunir class was built to hide the special Anastasia among
them, and not many were ever built. They have a distinct exterior
look that really couldn't be disguised. They couldn't even really
disguise Anastasia as one of the others, since there are so few
in the class that it's too easy to keep track of where they really are.
Misha asks if they could sell Anastasia.
Mich says that since it's been stolen from the
Archduke, they could only really sell it as a prematurely surplus navy
ship, and there are limited places to do that. One of those
places is quite nearby -- Attica --
and it would probably end
up either parted out into pirate ship components or sold intact as a
Misha asks if there's a jump capable ship
being carried on board Nightshade.
Mich says that while theoretically there's just
exactly room for one in the attic, there are no cargo doors or anything
to launch or recover it, and it would have to fit exactly anyway.
There are jump nets, used for bulk transport of ore, that could be used
to "tow" another ship through jump, but they're difficult to use.
In practice, the only real way to have a ship come with you is to have
it jump itself. The other ship would have to refuel, too, so it
would force you to interact with the system and refuel. It also
wouldn't have stealth mode.
Misha points out that Marquis Marc's new ship should
be ready in a few months, and if they absolutely have to use a ship
other than Nightshade, they could use that. He then
wonders what the odds are that the Archduke knows about INISO.
Robert's opinion is that he would not.
Everybody is on a need to know basis, and the way he's responded to
Mich and the Anastasia crew in the past indicates he's not part
of INISO. If you're not part of it, you don't know about it, no
matter how high up you are. Of course, they did link into the
planetary defenses of Mora very quickly. Now Norris does
have a background in Naval Intelligence and would have contacts in that
organization, but INISO doesn't have contacts as such.
Misha asks Shark how common these kinds of
Shark says there aren't any independent agencies --
except apparently INISO -- but everything would be
sub-departments. There are no autonomous organizations.
There are some departments where their existence is known, but nobody
knows what it does, but INISO is a very different organization.
The distinct implication from the database is that they don't really
report to anyone -- their motto is, "We outrank you." He adds
that he was warned by his contacts when the crew started looking into
Misha asks if anyone wants to guess how the Archduke
would react to the existence of this organization. No-one
answers. He then asks what the odds are that INISO knows about
the Arden Society.
Shark replies that if they did, they would have done
something about it.
Misha then asks what the odds are that someone at a
senior level of the Imperium knows about the Arden Society.
Misha again brings up the subject of where to go
next. Without ruling out a return to Zett, or visiting
Marquis Marc on Mora, he asks what they would think about
getting the location of some other caches from the Arden Society, then
going to the caches and seeing if there's anything they can learn from
them that the Society hasn't figured out on their own yet. He
gets general agreement.
So once again Misha calls Eric over. Misha
suggests the idea to him, asking if they'd be willing to give out the
location of some of the existing caches.
Eric simply says, "We don't know where they are."
"OK," says Misha. "You have some of the
"We have everything we need."
"What I'm trying to get to is whether you have
examples of technology that Mich, for example, might be able to learn
something from, something you don't already know."
Eric looks puzzled. He says, "It's
unlikely. We've continued research. To a certain extent the
ship is already at the physical limits. We've only made minor
improvements over time."
"Does the Arden Society have an interest in finding
out more about those who went on, or the enemy?"
"Yes! Anything you can find out about the
enemy we'd be really interested in! We'd like to know what
happened to the ones who went on, but it's not our job."
"Do you have anything, databases or technology, that
might yield information of that sort that we could chase down or look
"No. We would have chased down or looked at
it. We do wonder from time to time if the enemy has an equivalent
to us here, but we've seen no evidence of that."
"Is the enemy's technology significantly different
from the black technology?"
"We don't know. They have no need to refuel
either, but we think they have a different power source. Their
weapons are different, but we all have equivalences. There are
only so many ways you can tear something
"If we were to stumble across some bit of
technology, would it be obvious what's other than black
technology? To Mich, that is."
"He should have a fairly good idea. I haven't
actually seen any myself, you understand."
"Does the Arden Society know of examples of enemy
"No. None of us are old enough to have seen it
"Right. I just wondered if you'd found a
cache, or knew of a cache, or had inherited examples or descriptions of
"There were no real descriptions other than the
battles we'd had. There was no up close and personal contact."
"Do you have more detailed accounts of the history
of the enemy and the ones who went on?"
"Not a lot that you need to know. Not a lot
that you would benefit from knowing. We have no history other
than ourselves after we split out."
"OK. How is Lap'da related to the Arden
"He's one of the ones who went off to live off nuts
and berries in the woods. They got fed up..."
Helia pipes up, "Physically he's one of them?
That was a very long time ago. Physically? Same body?"
"He's not that old, I'm sure."
"He went off to live of nuts and berries."
"Many many many generations ago as humans reckon
time. Was he physically or was his spirit? Did he
physically run off into the woods and become one with the forest like
he is now?"
"His ancestors did."
"OK! Do you know how long he has physically
been on this planet?"
"Since he was born, I imagine. He's not
supposed to leave. I don't know how old he is."
"So he's descended from the people who ran off to
eat nuts and berries."
"Right. One of the parties of the treaty."
"When was the treaty signed?"
"A very long time ago."
"Lap'da was one of those people."
"Lap'da's descended from one side of that, as we're
descended from one side of that."
Helia seems satisfied. She concludes, "He's a
member of the treaty but not one of the signers of the treaty.
"I thought this had all been explained to you," says
Kalida says, "In Lap'da's own unique way."
Helia says, "Lap'da just makes it sound like he's
very very very old by human reckoning, but not one of the original
people that ran off into the woods. But how very old I've been
trying to figure out. By standard years a hundred, three
thousand, I don't know."
"Have you tried asking him?" suggests Eric.
"Yeah," says Helia. He did say how old he was,
but it didn't make any sense to her. She still wants
a second opinion.
"That's another reason we're still here, to keep an
eye out and make sure nobody trashes the place."
"It's a place I wouldn't mind retiring to and
becoming one with."
"Yeah, if you want to give up all your
responsibilities and duties, sure."
"Well, I figure if I retire I can get me a big jug
of fish oil, come live in the forest, and Lap'da or his children would
be perfectly happy to have me."
"Probably. I don't know. You'd have to
Kalida smiles, "As long as you don't trash the
Helia says, "I'll just drink enough fish oil until I
can speak the language, and fly amongst the trees. Maybe I can be
one of those people who greets visitors like yourself. I wonder
what would happen if there were a jann/larian child, whether she would
have wings or not..."
Misha interrupts, "OK, now we've gone way off the
edge here." He turns to Eric and says, "How much do you know
about what happened before the
creation of the Arden Society?"
"How much of that are you willing to tell us?"
"Not a lot. There's no reason why that
knowledge needs to be spread around. Some things are better if
fewer people know it, such as -- I'm sure you'll understand -- the
world we came from.
You don't need to know where it was. If
you know that, maybe somebody is going to go trash it again."
"Maybe somebody trashes it anyway."
"It got trashed once. That's how this whole
"OK, now there's an interesting thing! How did
this get started?"
"The enemy trashed our homeworld and took off."
"You chased after them."
Kalida asks, "They just trashed it just for the hell
of it? They were just out one day and said, 'Let's trash this
"As I said, they're the masters of the unprovoked
"There must be a reason. I mean..."
"If there is, we'd like to know what it is.
They didn't blow it up, they just laid waste to it. We took off
after them. We got here, there was a war going on. They got
caught up in it -- actually managed to blow up somebody's world this
time -- somebody who was already here. We don't know if they
deliberately stopped here to do that, or just got caught in some
crossfire, but we did manage to catch up and fight them some
here. Then they got away, and we resumed the chase. But it
was an important enough occurrence that some of us stayed here to make
sure there was nothing important about this area."
Misha asks, "Have you made any progress?"
"We haven't found anything important here. We
did sign a treaty with the locals that Digitis was
safe within their war."
"So why are the janns here? Can you tell me
more about your history?"
"They got fed up with all the fighting. They
wanted to settle somewhere. The local war here was over
relatively quickly -- it's been over for a long time now. One
side eliminated the other. Humans started drifted in and settling
down here. That's when we founded the Arden Society and set up
our own neutral area."
"To have a political presence, a physical presence,
to have something here. To have the resources for an organization
to keep track of what's going on."
Kalida asks, "Did anybody go back to your original
"None of us, no. We think it was... resettled,
but not by us, not directly."
Misha says, "Does the Society have any interest in
following up on or trying to see where those who went on went?"
"We'd like to find out eventually, I guess, when
somebody comes back. If we went after them and got intercepted,
that would be a sign that we were still here, and that might lead
someone back. That's our main concern -- that somewhere out there
the enemy will pick up on some sign that we are still here. Or
that people are here using our technology."
"Let me put it this way. We're interested in
doing some investigation, so if the Society had leads that they wanted
us to follow, felt that we might be qualified to follow some leads they
had, we'd be interested in hearing about it."
"We will bear that in mind. We are limited by
treaty in what resources we can use. You aren't. That could
be useful. I think this was an eventuality completely unforeseen
by the original treaty: first of all, that humans would be populating
this area, and secondly that they might find some of our stuff and use
it. Now we would like to know who is looking into our technology,
and who knows anything about it - who's found the caches, what they've
found, and what they've done with it. If you ever found out what
the guidelines were for predicting cache locations, you could re-hide
the stuff appropriately if you got hold of it. We don't know what
the guidelines are, and we aren't supposed to know."
Kalida says, "We're not you."
Misha says, "So we'd have to guess what the
"Or find out if somebody came back and knows
it. They might not have told us, because that's not our job."
"If somebody came back they wouldn't tell you?"
"Quite possibly not."
"It's information we don't need to know. If
they had reasons for coming back like stocking up on supplies, or
coming back to look for some extra evidence that became relevant
later... Also they might be afraid that we'd evolved into
something that would be more harmful than useful to them. There
are all sorts of reasons they might not tell us."
"OK. If you learned of the location of a
cache, would you be allowed to move it if necessary to protect it?"
"Then we'd still know where it was."
Kalida says, "But you'd be able to tell us, then we
could move it and not tell you where it was."
"That would be much better."
Misha says, "So is it against the rules for you to
know where these caches are?"
"Yes. If we find one by accident we
conveniently forget it."
"I was in fact wondering why you hadn't pressed us
harder on what we might know about caches."
"Right. We don't want to know. And as
your doctor probably knows, there's equipment on the ship that can
erase memories, so... There are other means of erasing memories
too, of course."
Misha laughs, "There's one we used to use on my
homeworld all the time!"
Eric smiles and continues, "Now we do think that it
is likely that the enemy is not here. Or that what is left
doesn't have enough interest or resources. If enough people have
been looking into the black ships, and the enemy haven't found out
about it, then it might be that they're not here. Or maybe for
some reason a low level of activity doesn't matter to them."
Kalida says, "Or that they destroyed themselves eons
"Yes. That likelihood is why we finally agreed
that you could operate. And as I believe you said, if they are
around, you can flush them out."
Misha notices that it is getting late. He says
goodnight to Eric, and the meeting breaks up.
Misha then talks briefly to the crew. The
database contained the location of some caches -- INISO had found
caches at Zett, Zaibon / Lunion, Shionthy / Regina, and Regina /
Regina. He suggests picking one of those, and going there.
The locations have generally been in asteroid belts.
Anastasia has already visited Zaibon.
For one thing, it's where the Baron picked up his girlfriend -- and the
original captain of Anastasia, too. Helia checks out the astrographic data on
the system -- she thinks it sounds a fun approach to the
starport. She adds that in 1107 it was the scene of the Porky's
Raid, which helped avert a possible Fifth Frontier War with
Worlds. Kalida points out that it's also right next to Adabicci.
On the other hand, Shionthy has the lure of
being a Red Zone --
Helia is always fascinated by those. Finding out that the reason
for interdiction is that it's dangerous, with an especially hazardous
asteroid belt, just encourages her.
Zett they know, of course.
Regina doesn't seem to have much going for
it, except for being the subsector
capital; it's also where Norris was Duke, before he became Archduke of
Deneb. Nevertheless, Helia suggests they go there first because
it's the subsector capital and could be interesting, and then go to the
place with the really dangerous asteroid belt.
Helia starts gushing enthusiastically. She
says the only bad thing about going to Regina is that if they
run into bad guys there, they are going to guess that they're headed
for Shionthy next. Two things work in their favor,
though. First, they can get there much more quickly, and have
time to look around and be gone before they catch up. Second,
they probably don't have a pilot capable of handling the dangerous
Kalida points out that if they did run into bad
guys, they could always just wander around for a while and come back
Misha tells Helia to pick it. She picks Regina.
In the morning, everyone sets off to return to First
On the way, Erik assures them that he will give them
all the contact information and protocols, names and types of all the
ships they have wandering around (Baba Yaga is one of them, of
course), and so on. Their operatives will not be informed that Nightshade
is working with them unless it becomes necessary.
All arrive back at the black ships anchored off the
First City yacht club without incident. Once there, work
immediately begins on the upgrades to Nightshade.
Jane transfers on board. She will be upgrading
all the non-offensive systems: stealth mode, sensors, shields, and the
laser. As Jane puts it, the laser is a defensive and sensor
system, not an offensive system.
Mich and Helia work closely with Jane for the whole
operation. Jane uses only equipment already on Nightshade,
from the ship's three extensive workshops. Mich discovers a great
deal about the workshop equipment, a lot of which was completely
incomprehensible. Also the two crew members see a lot more of the
ship -- crawling through access hatches and tight spaces in the lower
decks of the ship. It's some of the same areas, in fact, that
they used to get into the other small black ship at Zett.
Robert oversees the computer upgrades. In the
process he picks up a good bit about the computer systems. Also,
he makes sure that everything Jane does at any time -- even when just
apparently relaxing in the lounge -- is recorded. They'll be able
to go back and study the whole process second by second if they want --
if they have the patience.
Mich has learned a lot about the technology, but his
most significant gains are in the use of the workshops. He can
now start to perform actual work on the ship if he wants, including how
to power new equipment from the power plant. Helia also picks up
a very good introduction to black technology. The difficulties
arise because Jane explains the changes thoroughly, but assumes they
already know how it worked before. Callisto, on the other hand,
pesters Jane with incessant questions during the sensor upgrades, and
really picks up a good basic understanding of how sensors work on this
Robert also supervised the transfer of the contact
information. In addition to details on operatives and contact
codes, there's also blind contact protocols. To Shark's
amusement, they're very much the same as used by Imperial Intelligence,
although obviously with different codes -- the old ploy of leaving a
card on the Travellers
Aid Society bulletin board is alive and well.
Kalida runs simulations with the new gunnery
systems. The shields are tougher, and can take more hits before
folding. The laser is more responsive, and can engage and switch
targets faster. As Jane points out, she can now knock more
missiles out of the cloud. Kalida practices this
extensively. Jane also says that the laser is more effective and
tracks better when used to designate a stealth mode target.
The sensors have enhanced sensitivity, and can also
be operated from points more remote from the ship. Spacial
anomaly detection is much better, yielding a very significant increase
in the ability to detect stealth mode. Nightshade's
stealth mode is better -- except against spacial anomaly sensors, which
by the nature of physics will pick it up -- and is better at relaying
higher intensities. The ship won't stand out so much against
bright objects, and is trickier to designate with laser rasters.
There's also some routine enhancements to the
efficiency of the ventilation and other comfort and convenience
features, including adaptive prediction in the freshers.
The work is complete. All say their good-byes,
and Nightshade lifts off into orbit, bound for Regina.